Proverbs 28:11

True Wisdom / True Riches

The rich man is wise in his own conceit;
but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.


1. This is yet another proverb of comparisons.

2. Two comparisons are made:

a. The rich man vs. the poor man.

b. The man who is wise in his own eyes vs. the man who has understanding.

3. The proverb is designed to make you think: Which man has the real wisdom? Which man has the true riches?

The rich man is wise in his own conceit;

1. The rich man in this proverb is truly rich in the things of this world.

a. This is the man the world would say is rich.

b. He probably had many herds of cattle, camels, and goats.

c. He probably owned a lot of land and real estate.

d. He became exceedingly successful.

2. And very often poor men wish they could change places with him.

a. The poor look at all of his houses and riches, covet his material goods; they feel that they got a raw deal in life.

b. Luke 12:17-19 – “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”
• Most men observing their neighbor prospering in such a way he has no room for all his goods that he has to build bigger barns would be a bit jealous. What a problem to have! I wish I had that problem.
• They would see him starting to live a life of ease and be jealous.
• Who wouldn’t want a life of luxury?

c. Psalm 73:3-5, 7, 12 – Asaph was a poor man who envied his rich neighbors.
• He looked around and saw that many wicked men became rich.
• They lived a life of luxury and seemed to have it made!
• Nothing bad ever seemed to happen to them. He coveted their position and their possessions.

d. Asaph, the neighbor of the rich man in Luke 17, and countless others have observed the wealthy and have coveted their goods.
• Maybe we have done the same.
• It is especially difficult in a poor economy to watch your neighbor prosper while your finances dwindle away.
• In a roundabout way, Solomon deals with this issue.

3. The rich man described in this proverb is genuinely wealthy in material goods.

a. He is truly rich; but the question is, does his wealth constitute true riches?

4. This rich man is wise in his own conceits.

a. Now another question arises: he is wise in his own conceits, but does that constitute true wisdom?

b. “Wise in one’s own conceit” is a phrase that speaks of a person who THINKS he is wise.

c. This particular man is rich in earthly goods. Evidently, his riches have blinded him.

d. He assumed (wrongly) that because he is rich, therefore he is wise.

e. This premise is often true, but is certainly not always true.

f. Men with earthly wisdom (inspiration accompanied by perspiration) do often become successful in life… at least in earthly life.

g. However, many rich people become rich in other ways.
• Many inherit it. They are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Being born into wealth does not guarantee that a person will be wise. Often they are very foolish.
• Some steal it or obtain it by dishonest means and are never caught. They are rich, but not wise.
• Some men stumble into wealth. They might discover oil on their property. It might be called “good luck” by some—but not necessarily wisdom.
• Ecc. 9:11 – “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
• Some men become rich by “time and chance.” They just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

h. In light of this, it is presumptuous of a rich man to assume that he is wise because he is rich.
• He may have been the beneficiary of being born in the right family… or the beneficiary of “time and chance.”
• Riches don’t always land in the lap of wise men.
• Fools can be rich too.
• Asaph noted that wicked, immoral men can become rich.
• Wealth is not necessarily a sign of God’s approval, a sign of godliness, or a sign of wisdom.

5. “Wise in his own conceit.”

a. This rich man has the wrong attitude towards his riches.

b. Isa. 5:21 – God warns about this attitude: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.”

c. He is proud. He has assumed that because he is rich, he must be wise.

d. The word “conceit” means eye. It indicates that he THINKS he is wise.

e. The subtle implication here is that no one else really believes that. Others may actually consider him to be a fool… but he is so full of himself that he thinks he is wise… and perhaps superior to the poor.

f. This kind of pride and conceit may well have been nourished and sustained by the flattery from those in their entourage who benefit from their wealth.

g. I think of Hollywood stars—and others who are “rich and famous” when I think of the rich who are “wise in their own conceits.”
• They can do one thing well (they can act), and extrapolate from that that they are wise in all areas of life.
• In reality, they are often (not always) immoral and foolish.
• They often promote bizarre philosophies… like scientology and earth worship.
• It scares me that their political views are taken seriously by so many people in our country.
• What makes a Hollywood star, who lives in a very peculiar bubble, think that they know what’s best for America? Of course they are all entitled to their own opinion, (it’s a free country), but it is frightening that so many want to know their opinions on such important issues… like what to do in the Middle East… energy… protecting our freedoms… or what we should eat or wear!
• One man quoted a telling line from “Fiddler on the Roof” that is applicable here: “It makes no difference if you’re right or wrong; when you’re rich they think you really know.”
• Rich and famous does not necessarily translate into wise and godly… but people often THINK it does.
• Of course, Solomon didn’t have Hollywood stars in mind as he wrote this proverb. But he may well have had the children of nobles and royalty in mind.
» Those are the circles Solomon traveled in.
» He observed wealth passed on from father to son.
» He also observed that the son who inherited the money without lifting a finger didn’t have half the wits and wisdom of his father who worked hard and exercised skill and wisdom in accumulating that wealth.
» Solomon wrote about what he saw in Ecc.2:17 – “Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. 19And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.”
→ Here Solomon became discouraged thinking about the fact that he demonstrated wisdom and much labor in accumulating wealth, but he has to leave it to someone else—a son—and who knows whether his son will be wise or a fool?
→ His son, upon inheriting the wealth will probably be “wise in his own conceit”… but that isn’t true wisdom.
• Solomon’s point in this proverb is that they may be rich, but that doesn’t mean that they are wise.
• They may be wise in their own eyes… but objective observers know differently.

But the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

1. In contrast to the rich man who thinks himself to be wise is the poor man, who would probably be considered ignorant and uneducated.

2. However, this poor man has “understanding.”

a. This is true understanding… discernment… insight… skill…

b. He may not be well educated like the noble’s son; he may not have had the educational privilege of others, he didn’t attend the most prestigious schools; but he has wisdom and insight—which is far more valuable… as we have seen many times in Proverbs.

c. The proverb states that the rich man was wise—but only in his own eyes.

d. The same proverb then states that the poor man “hath” understanding.
• It’s not just that he thinks that he has it; he actually does have it.
• And the understanding of the poor man is genuine discernment.

3. This poor man “searches him out.”

a. The poor man uses his genuine discernment to search out the rich man.

b. “Search out” – Discover; probe; examine; test; i.e., try to find out information about an object or event.

c. Perhaps this poor man heard the rich man speak about how wise he was, so he put his alleged wisdom to the test.

d. He began investigating, probing, and examining in order to find the truth of the matter.

e. While not stated, the implication seems to be that the poor man searched him out – he weighed him in the balances and found him to be wanting.

f. The poor man discovered that the wisdom of the rich man existed only in his own eyes.

g. The poor man sees right through his pride and pretention.

4. So, upon reflection, we discover which man in this proverb is the one with true riches and true wisdom.

a. It wasn’t the man rich in earthly goods and pride.

b. It was the humble poor man who had understanding – and his understanding was priceless!

c. Though considered by most to be poor and ignorant, he was in fact, both rich and wise!

5. And in the spiritual realm:

a. Asaph went into the house of God and discovered that the wicked wealthy may SEEM to be living a life of ease, but judgment day is coming for them, and their wealth will not buy them redemption.

b. And the man in Luke who built bigger barns because he was so rich in goods died that night and stood before God naked and unprepared. That isn’t very wise.

c. In the spiritual realm, earthly riches don’t buy much. But understanding and true wisdom lead souls to God – the Source of wisdom and understanding.

d. That kind of understanding is priceless.